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New Scottish legislation for short-term lets came into effect on 1 March 2022. Learn what the legal requirements for letting a holiday property are, and how the new licensing laws in Scotland will work.

Please note that this webpage includes a summary of the law relating to short-term lets. You should take further advice on how the law applies to specific circumstances.

 

In this section:

  1. What is the short-term let legislation?
  2. Who is it for?
  3. What do you need to do?
  4. Next steps to get ready to apply for a licence
  5. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
  6. Industry Advisory Group (IAG)
  7. IAG participants

 

Have you read through this guidance and feel you still need further help or information?

1. What is the short-term let legislation?

The Scottish Government has introduced a licensing regime for short-term lets in Scotland. The scheme requires all local councils to establish a short-term let licensing scheme.

Are you an existing host or operator, operating before 1 October 2022? Then you'll have to apply for a licence before 1 April 2023. You can continue to receive guests and accept bookings while your application is being determined.

New operators of short-term let accommodation must have a licence before taking any bookings. This also applies to existing operators who establish new short-term let accommodations.

By 1 July 2024, it will be illegal to operate a short-term let without a licence in all circumstances. Before 1 July 2024, it will be illegal in some circumstances, including:

  • Where a new host or operator starts operating while their application is being determined. Or where they continue to operate where a licence application has been refused
  • Where an existing host or operator continues to operate where a licence application has been refused

 

Planning Control Areas (PCAs)

Local councils may also choose to designate short-term let Planning Control Areas (PCAs). Once designated, providers of secondary letting of an entire residential home or flat within a PCA will need one of two things:

  1. Change of use planning permission (planning permission must either be in force, or an application has been made and not yet determined)
  2. Certificate of lawfulness

These are in addition to a licence.

 

Did the change of use of an entire residential home or flat to a short-term let take place before the designation of the control area? Then you may need planning permission where the change is material.

Was your accommodation purposefully built for holiday lets? Check your decision notice. You generally won't need any further planning consent if it refers to the property for holiday use only. However, it will all be in the exact wording on the decision notice.

You may wish to contact your local council for advice if you are unsure whether you need planning permission.

2. Who is it for?

The licensing scheme applies to the whole of Scotland. All 32 local councils are introducing a scheme. Regulations apply to all short-term let accommodation, unless specifically excluded.

If you are unsure whether you need a licence or not, you may wish to consider seeking independent legal advice.

 

The following types of accommodation could all be considered a short-term let:

  • B&B and guesthouse
  • Boat (if static and not used for transportation)
  • Boathouse
  • Cabin
  • Castle
  • Chalet
  • Cottage
  • Exclusive use venue where accommodation is provided (without a liquor licence: Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005)
  • Farmhouse
  • Holiday caravan which cannot be moved or on-site glamping pod without a caravan site licence: Caravan sites and Control of Development Act 1960
  • Lighthouse
  • Lodge
  • Self-catering unit / holiday let, including time-share self-catering units
  • Serviced apartment, meaning a flat or residential unit in respect of which:
    1. Hosts provide services to guests (such as housekeeping, a telephone desk, reception, or laundry)
    2. Each flat or unit contains its own washing, cooking and dining facilities separate from each of the other flats or units
    3. A management system prevents anti-social behaviour and imposes limits to the maximum occupancy of the flats or units
  • Shared home or rooms within a home
  • Shepherd hut
  • Tent, tipi or wigwam
  • Treehouse
  • Yurt

 

Exclusions include:

  • Aparthotels, meaning a building that:
    1. Is entirely owned by the same person
    2. Has a minimum number of five serviced apartments that are managed and operated as a single business
    3. Has a shared entrance for the serviced apartments
    4. Has serviced apartments that don't share an entrance with any other flat or residential unit within the building
  • B&B or guesthouse with a premises licence under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005
  • Bothy – a building of no more than two storeys that has:
    1. No mains electricity, piped fuel supply or piped mains water supply
    2. Is at least 100 metres from the nearest public road and from the nearest habitable building
  • Holiday caravan or glamping pod sited within a park with a caravan site licence (Caravan sites and Control of Development Act 1960)
  • Hotels with a premises licence under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005
  • Self-catering accommodation within the grounds of a licenced premises / hotel (Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005). The accommodation needs to be specifically mentioned as part of the operating plan

 

Read the Scottish Government guidance - more extensive information and a list of exclusions.

 

Do you have a House of Multiple Occupations (HMO) licence?

If you offer short-term lets within your HMO, you will also need a short-term let licence in addition to your HMO licence. Unless you operate a short-term let for less than six weeks. In that case, you might be able to apply for a temporary exemption if your council offers this.

3. What do you need to do?

Local councils have begun providing information and application forms on their websites. As application forms become available you will be able to begin the process of applying for a licence.

Getting your application right first time will help councils in processing it and it may also help you to get a decision more quickly. The timescales for determination are dependent on various factors including licensing council workloads.

Your licensing council will set out the detail and format of any documentation that you need for your application on their website. Local councils will charge a fee for making a licence application. Fees differ across local councils and for different types of licence, e.g. home sharing, home letting and secondary letting. If you need to apply for planning permission there will also be a fee for making a planning application.

There are mandatory conditions that every short-term let in Scotland will need to follow. These relate to the safety of the activity. Licensing councils can also set extra conditions according to local needs and circumstances.

The Scottish Government has provided guidance:

4. Next steps to get ready to apply for a licence

As local councils’ schemes begin to open, we suggest you take the time to consider the following two actions:

  1. Check with your local council if you need a planning permission or a certificate of lawfulness to operate a short-term licence. This is particularly important if you are in a Planning Control Area, but you may also need permissions outwith those areas
  2. Review the mandatory licence requirements and start the work you need to do to comply

This is only a preliminary list. We will include external links with further information as further information is made available.

Please note that each council may also set additional conditions that are specific to their area. They and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will need to check what maximum number of guests you can accommodate safely. To do so, the council might want to ask applicants to submit floor plans for their premises as part of their application.

These will have to show:

  • Room sizes
  • Fire escape routes
  • Accommodation intended for guests with mobility impairments

You might also have to show:

  • The location of any steps, stairs, or lifts in the premises
  • The extent and boundary of the building – if relevant

 

Councils may also wish to visit your property to conduct this safety assessment in person. This will be either instead of or in addition to requesting floor plans.

5. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We collated the following FAQs in conjunction with an Industry Advisory Group representing the sector. Many questions came from businesses that attended the ASSC short-term let regulation roadshows.

We know there are many more questions related to this new legislation. That's why we’ve pulled some of the key questions – and more importantly answers – to make it a little easier for you. These are currently grouped into three key themes:

More questions will be added in the future, so please check back regularly.

 

Getting a licence – who, what and why?

Licensing and planning permission

Other questions

6. Industry Advisory Group (IAG)

Ahead of the implementation, we agreed to work with the associations who represent those affected by this legislation.

Committed to work together, and in collaboration with the Scottish Government, we have set out to give businesses the right advice.

We want to help you through the process of applying for a short-term let licence or planning permission.

We’ll be updating this page regularly so do check back.

7. IAG participants

  • Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers

  • Scottish B&B Association

  • Scottish Guest House and B&B Alliance

  • Scottish Tourism Alliance

  • Short Term Accommodation Association

Related links